IN DEFENSE OF SHOP CLASS. Betsy's Page picks up Joanne Jacobs on industrial arts (duly noted here) and adds her own observation, "The nation is facing a shortage of qualified auto repair mechanics. Even if a student wasn't planning on working as a mechanic, this is a useful skill. As we plan to take our car in for repair next week, both my husband and I realize that we could have benefited from a car repair class in high school. We'd have used that much more often than four years of Spanish." I have to wonder how you can teach auto technicians these days without teaching algebra and computer literacy. The self-diagnostic gadgets in cars are marvelous, but nowhere near as intuitive as the old timing lights, dwell tachs, Allen keys, and the good ol' finger in the butterfly valve were.
The prospects for skilled workers whose work cannot be sent overseas electronically look relatively better. Much of the data entry that used to be done in cubicles in big U.S. cities, before it went to Sioux Falls, and then to Ireland, is now on its way to India (and once the electricity is reliable, Baghdad??) Troubleshooting a car on the internet is a bit harder.
This Highered Intelligence post on the subtexts of "no child left behind" is worth a look. Furthermore, the cheap-labor-subsidy from immigrants ultimately does come to an end: there is nothing like the difficulty keeping good workers to get inventors thinking about how to make the task easier and cheaper. I heard an interesting story about vacuum-cleaner technology being adapted to chicken farms to harvest the chickens....
Or would you rather have the French attitude toward industry?